Sunday, March 15, 2009


It is flood season in Fargo/Moorhead. The politicians showed up last weekend to lead a pep-fest, get their faces on television, promise money for permanent flood protection (again), and extolled the virtues of our citizens. Who really listens to them?

The National Weather Service, criticized in 1997 for their constantly changing forecasts of the Red’s crest, bombard us with predictions and probabilities: There’s a 50% chance the river will crest at 38 feet, 1 in 3 chances that it will crest higher than the 39.5 feet recorded in 1997, a 90% chance of major flooding in Wahpeton, there might be a snow/rain storm in 10 days (it is March after all), and on and on. A week ago all those predictions and probabilities were different. As they cover their behinds, citizens are confused and unduly upset.

Recently WDAY weatherman John Wheeler said “Tomorrow will be cloudy all day.” The next day was cloudless all day. Last summer Wheeler said at a 5:00PM weather report: “Those of you going to the Red Hawks game will have a dry night.” The downpour began early and didn’t stop all night—his colleagues on other networks are no better at prediction. These folks are good at telling us what happened not what will happen.

The experts have a credibility problem.

One thing I can predict with almost 100% certainty: The Red River will crest in April, and we don’t know today what the crest will be.

Weather is a dynamic system virtually unpredictable with certainty until it happens.

As we enter flood season, the river approaches the extremes of its normal chaos (order without predictability). The combinations of the weather, snow melt, and the river (along with many other variables) make conditions incomprehensibly complex.

We are familiar with the “butterfly effect” meaning a small change at the beginning of a process can have a large impact at the end of that process. In the weather this dynamic is called sensitive dependence on initial conditions.

Many butterfly effects are happening every day in the life of the spring floods. Some we are aware of; others we are blind to. All can impact the eventual outcome, some for good and others for bad. These dynamics are so complex and interconnected that it is beyond the human minds ability to process them. While computers are a tremendous help, they can only model the data people put in. Accurate prediction is impossible, and we can only speak in probabilities that become more accurate as the anticipated dynamics gets closer in time and place.

The weather folks should quit trying to create the illusion that they can get it perfectly right. They know they cannot. People need to understand this and learn to live with uncertainty until the weather happens. The National Weather Service should give their best guess of crest levels daily always pointing out that it is an educated guess. They might give a range of the crest levels that they are 75% certain that the eventual crest will fall within. After a few core measures, more become meaningless.

Fargo Mayor Dennis Walaker has universal credibility. I’d like to see him give a daily news conference at 4:00PM with his thoughts and best predictions. The community can then hear what he has to say at the 5:00PM and 6:00PM newscasts.

We live on the river in south Moorhead. My wife watched neighbors lose their homes in 1997. We are concerned. I trust the judgment of my wife and neighbors who are experienced with floods. Right now many are skeptical of what they are hearing from the experts. We will watch as Mother Nature runs her course and will adapt our plans as the days pass. We will listen to those who have demonstrated their credibility under fire. Our community will come together as it always has.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009


As we continue the world’s transformative change journey, we must understand that the leaders who led us to success in the now exhausted ways of doing things are rarely the people to lead renewal.

Auto industry executives will not lead a transformation to a new energy paradigm. Wall Street money men and entitled bankers will not reform the financial system. Influence-peddling Washington lobbyists will not clean up corruption in our Capitol. If they could provide that leadership, they would have long ago.

President Obama must understand the risk he takes when he chooses Washington veterans for his Cabinet and for leadership roles in his government. Can they see with new eyes?

Traditional Democrats are the “either” to the Republican “or” in the Washington D.C. political game. We don’t need a liberal version of the same old game to be replaced in eight years by the failed conservative model.

We need a new game. President Obama understands this. Can he change the rules for all?

In 2000 Paul H. Ray and Sherry Ruth Anderson wrote a book entitled “The Cultural Creatives”—a group of 50 million Americans who are creating a new culture in America.

Cultural Creatives care about the planet, relationships, and servant leadership. They have an organic, systemic, and holistic worldview. They value authenticity, believe in purpose, and live by strong values. They are idealistic, altruistic, and spiritual—not necessarily religious. They are creative and optimistic problem-solvers; they model new ways to live.

Cultural Creatives, disenchanted with greed, materialism, and status displays, oppose the abuse of rank; inequalities of race, class, and gender; and the narrowness and intolerance of social conservatives and the Religious Right.

They are the leaders for the times. They will provide mature and responsible leadership that will replace what Bob Herbert, columnist in the New York Times, called the “reckless, clownish, shortsighted, and self-absorbed” leadership we have grown weary of.

These new leaders will continue to unite under a shared purpose: to save the world by creating sustainable organizations, a sustainable global economy, and a planet that endures for future generations to enjoy.

The people in this movement created the conditions that allowed Barack Obama to emerge from seemingly nowhere to become our president. He is the externalization of their decades of difficult effort--their reward for the risky and thankless work they have done.

Now our President must free the Cultural Creative leaders within our organizations and institutions across our nation from the shackles of an exhausted worldview so they can lead our collective vision to renew the world.

Time is running out. Our ecological crisis and national decline require an acceleration of natural processes: a conscious and sustainable fast-forward of human social evolution without harming life in the process.

We must think big, move fast, and address all our interconnected problems at once. We must see reality accurately, develop a powerful vision for the future, learn to manage massive change organically, and develop trust in others so self-organization and other natural dynamics of life can burst free from repression and emerge in full creativity.

As we move through this massive reorganization of life no one has a “fail-safe” plan. We live as pioneers who step into the unknown potential of life. We must “plan, do, reflect, and adapt” daily until we find what works.

Creativity is messy and inefficient. Mistakes will be made as we move beyond our knowledge. Not all will be done well. Such is the nature of transformational change. Those who follow can spend the next 100 years making incremental improvements.

We created the world of today that no longer works for us. We can change it.

Tom Heuerman (Heuerman, Ph.D. is a former Secret Service agent, newspaper executive, and organizational consultant. He lives in Moorhead. Email: